Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Amendment I of the constitution guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government. Today, I see many instances in this country of individuals trying to stop free speech. All you have to do is turn on the news to see people clashing over a difference in thoughts or ideas. When did our country become a place where you cannot express your ideas or speak what you believe and be safe? When did it become acceptable to discriminate based on who they support politically? You may think I am promoting one political position, but these events are not political, but the basis of what our country is founded on, freedom of speech without fear!
We need to get back to being able to freely talk about our differences, love one another even if we disagree! It seems we are heading away from the ideals of the 4th of July and the founding of our country and more towards a people and country that wants to stifle ideas, views, and speech.
Here in California, the state assembly is joining in on this attempt to squelch freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression through ACR 99:
“ACR 99, as amended, Low. Civil rights: lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people.”
“This measure would call upon all Californians to embrace the individual and social benefits of family and community acceptance, upon religious leaders with conviction to counsel on LGBTQ matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy, and upon the people of California and the institutions of California with great moral influence to model equitable treatment of all people of the state.”
To be clear, ACR 99 does not sound that bad. I strive to counsel people from a place of “love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms” and to “model equitable treatment of all people of the state.” But I get nervous any time the government starts to tell the church how we are to speak or counsel.
I don’t believe that this is an LGBTQ issue; it is an issue of free speech and freedom of religion. No matter what your position is on LGBTQ, I believe you should be afraid of ARC 99 and its attempt to control the speech of religious institutions. ARC 99 is a very vague amendment, and the specific concern I have is in regards to who decides what is “loving” or “compassionate.” I remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22:36-40
Jesus reminds us that we are first called to love God with all our heart and soul. This love of God means that the “covenant love we’re called to must be wholehearted, life-encompassing, community-impacting, exclusive commitment to our God.”(Jason DeRouchie). In doing so, we also love our neighbor. Thus, we love all people, no matter what their beliefs, orientation, speech, or position. Maybe if we model this love as Jesus did, we will be able to impact our community and country. This 4th of July let’s live the love of Jesus as we live blessed and free.
Dear Lord, please allow us the freedom to speak of your love and grace to all people. Please guide our leaders towards freedom and not control. Help us to boldly speak the truth of your word no matter what our government may state and allow those words to bring life to those who hear them. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen!
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.